Published On: Thu, Dec 1st, 2016

Hate crimes in US should concern Israel too

Op-ed: Israelis must cry out not just against swastika graffiti, anti-Semitic comments, or physical attacks on Jews, but also when a gay person is assaulted or when a writing like ‘Make America White Again’ is spray-painted on a wall.

White Supremacists Hail Trump with Nazi salute

About three weeks have passed since the US election. Donald Trump is the president of the world’s strongest power. Countless commentaries have already been written about his election, and all the possible outcries and cries of joy have been heard.

The appointments for the new administrations are underway, and like after every US election campaign, the main question in Israel is whether the appointments are “good for us.”

I understand the fear. The appointments made by Trump will affect Israel’s policy, even if its leaders pretend not to care what the world thinks. But what bothers me is how the reports on the rise in hate crimes and incitement since the elections – like the drawing of swastikas and racist, and even anti-Semitic, graffiti – go hand in hand with the satisfaction by Trump’s election in the Israeli government and among a significant part of the Israeli public.

Since Trump’s victory was declared, there have been more and more testimonies on social networks and among the American public of physical and verbal attacks on members of minority groups . The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a legal advocacy organization for weakened and poor populations, reported that there had been 701 acts of hate in just the first week after the elections. The list of victims is led by immigrants, blacks and LGBT people. For now, attacks on Jews are in the 10th place, and the drawing of swastikas is in the fifth place. The fact that other minority groups are targeted more than Jews may be the reason why Israelis have been so indifferent to these reports.

The differences between the United States and Israel in terms of hate crimes and incitement are historical. While the American administration’s motivation to eradicate hate crimes stems from crimes against black people (racism), Israel’s motivation stems from hate crimes against Jews (anti-Semitism). Israel doesn’t care how racist the new administration is, as long as this racism doesn’t hurt Jews. We have no problem with the fact that you hate Muslims and blacks, just don’t target Jews. But that’s called walking a very tight rope.

Only last week, we saw a clip showing Richard Spencer, a Trump supporter who heads the National Policy Institute (NPI) and backs the creation of an “Aryan” homeland, performing a Nazi salute and chanting “Hail Trump!”

Steve Bannon, who was appointed as Trump’s chief strategist, is one of the leaders of the “white supremacy” movement in the US. His appointment sparked a wide range of reactions among America’s Jews. One of the most interesting ones, which clearly points to the distortion in the Jewish-Israeli approach, came from Jewish jurist Alan Dershowitz, who stated that Bannon was not anti-Semitic and had good relations with Jews. If we translate such a statement to the Israeli reality, it immediately becomes ridiculous. Because even a person who shares a plate of hummus with Arabs may go to war next summer.

Hate crimes and incitement to violence against a person who is considered “different, ” even if he is a non-Jew, should make us cry aloud. We must not trust those who support incitement against people that are considered different, and we must cry out not only in cases of swastika graffiti, anti-Semitic comments or physical attacks on Jews, but also when a gay person is assaulted or when a writing like “Make America White Again” is spray-painted on a wall. After all, as history has taught us, Jews tend to fall into the same hole “others” are thrown into.

By Efrat Yardai, a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, Ynet News

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